Young'Un is pouting. I don't often sit with anyone other than Aldo while I'm in the NCCU cafeteria, but Young'Un is in one of our classes and seemed to be having some issues. Aldo is in his mid 30's. A well-dressed man with some of the best shoes of any dude I know. Young'Un plays football, is bigger than Rosie O'Donnell, and MIGHT have been born by the time Bill Clinton diddled Monica Lewinsky.
Aldo has his head deep in his plate, trying to ignore the conversation. He just keeps eating the fried tilapia substitute that makes up the standard Friday NCCU "Special of the Day." I had stopped trying to help Yong'Un 20 minutes ago. Young'Uns problem was rather stupid, and both Aldo and I were done listening to him gripe about it. I nod and smile and eat this fish-like dish. Aldo doesn't even nod or smile. He's on to the yellow rice.
Young'Un asks us, "Did you ever go through this shit?"
I nod sagely, rest my chin on my hand and say, "I think Aldo will agree with me. Growing up, you don't see the writing on the wall. Passin' by, moving straight ahead, you knew it all."
Young'Un shakes his head. "That's true. But I'm trying to be better about that shit. You know?"
"I know," I say. "But, maybe sometimes, when you feel the pain, you find you're all alone. Every thing has changed."
Aldo lifts his head and looks at me, his eyes furrowed.
"You play the game, though," I continue, pointing at his gym bag. "You know you can't quit until it's won." I can almost hear the brass playing in the distance.
Young'Un nods his head. I'm dropping some serious knowledge-bombs and he's taking mental notes. Aldo gives me a grin, shakes his head and starts trying to follow along.
"You soldier on," and here, I raise one hand. I can see it. I make Young'Un see it. "Only you..." I point at Young'Un's chest. "Only you can do what must be done." I nod. I have faith.
Young'Un feels that faith and actually seems to feel better. "I can do that. Just like football. You get knocked down, you just get the fuck up, you know?"
I should have stopped there. He was on board. He was working it out. He was on the rocky shore of the island called "Insecure 19-year-old-boy-shvanstein." He was safe.
Every one reading this knows that I didn't stop there. I couldn't have if you'd paid me $1.73 million dollars in unmarked bills.
Instead, I sit back. I glance at Aldo, who is nodding encouragement with the fervor of a child who's one kid away from meeting Mickey Mouse.
"You know, Young'Un, in some ways your a lot like me. You're just a prisoner and you're trying to break free."
Aldo almost claps out loud. He says in a near-sing-songy voice. "I can see a new horizon underneath a blazing sky. I'll be where the eagle's flying higher and higher."
Young'Un says, "Eagles! Hell yeah!"
The NCCU mascot is the Eagle. He thinks we've personalized this for him. He's so cute.
|How long would it have taken these guys to figure it out?|
I touch his shoulder and I look him deep in the eye. I'm very serious and he sees that. He takes a deep breath and looks back at me. I can see it in his eyes: he's raising a mental pencil, ready to jot down whatever I tell him on some spiritual notebook in his psyche.
I take a deep breath, trying to remain as serious as I can. "If you're going to be a man in motion," I say, "all you need is a pair of wheels. They'll take you where the future's lying."
"St. Elmo's Fire," Aldo says, jaw trembling with barely contained giggles.
" St. Elmo's Fire ," I confirm, doing my best "wise black janitor" face.
Young'Un looks from me to Aldo and back again. "What's St. Elbow's Fire?"
Aldo and I erupt into laughter. In fact, we are laughing so hard and for so long we don't even see Young'Un leave. When we finally notice that he isn't at the table any longer, it makes us laugh even harder.
When we finally start to get some control, Aldo says, "St. Elbows Fire!"
I nearly piss myself, and we spend the next 10 minutes laughing at Young'Un, who is still nowhere to be found...though he's probably looking up St. Elbow and his amazing fire on someone's smart phone.
Naturally, I laugh myself late to class...AGAIN.